One of the favorite arguments of Christian opponents is that because we no longer practise the Jewish Law of the Old Testament, that makes us hypocrites and somehow testifies to the supposed falsity of Christianity and therefore God’s existence. First of all, everybody is a hypocrite; Christians are not exempt from hypocrisy, and neither are atheists. Secondly, not only is this a farfetched conclusion somehow arrived at through circular logic, but it is also a misconception of true Christianity. As Christians, we acknowledge the Old Testament as sacred Scripture, so why don’t we fully practise the Torah? I could write an entire research paper on this, but I will keep it short and simple.
St. Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians concerning this same issue in 3:15-18:
Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He [God] does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
The promise through Christ came before the Law; therefore, the Law does not annul the promise. Even when we make our own contracts (i.e. promises), they don’t become void and we don’t add to them when they’re official. So it is with God. He instituted the promise of Christ through faith in Abraham, and later came the Law, which is a covenant between God and His people. So, why was the Law important? This is why it’s so important to pay attention to context, which Christian opponents fail to do continually. Paul continues in verses 19-21, “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions [sin], having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator [Moses], until the seed [Jesus] would come to whom the promise had been made. Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.” As God is one, He is also three persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); therefore, three intermediaries, but one. Explaining it further, Paul says in verses 24-25, “So then, the Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Before Christ’s first coming (His incarnation), human beings didn’t have a method by which their sins could be cleansed—that is, without Christ as a mediator, there was no way for sins to be properly forgiven. So, God instituted the Law as a means by which the sins of the Israelites could be forgiven (the sacrificial Law) as well as how they must live as God’s holy and chosen people (the civil-political Law). Christ needed to take our sins upon Himself before He could intercede for us on our behalf. So, what did God do? He instituted the Law, and in this way it acted as a guardian, but only for a while until Christ came so that we might be justified by faith, for the Law cannot justify us; it condemns us because it reveals to us our unholines and imperfection.
What About the Ten Commandments?
Jesus came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17). Only by fulfilling God’s Law can one be saved, but as human beings tainted by sin, we are incapable of fulfilling the Law; so as long as one remains under the Law, we remain doomed to damnation. But Jesus came to fulfil the Law for us so that by Him, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Because the Law reveals to us God’s holiness, only God can fulfil the Law. By the Law, the forgiveness of sins required a blood atonement. In Old Testament Israel, the Day of Atonement was an annual day in which the high priest would place the sins of Israel upon a goat, cut its throat, and thereby the goat dying in place of the people of Israel. Similarly, on that day, the sins of Israel were placed on a goat, whom the high priest would send out into the wilderness (the desert) until it died; hence the term “scapegoat.” So, Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, fully God and fully human—perfect and capable of fulfilling the Law as God and because He was fully human, able to sacrifice Himself as the blood atonement—or scapegoat—for our sins. This is why we no longer make sacrifices and instead pray for forgiveness as well as taking the sacraments, and also why we no longer keep the civil-political sections of the Law (e.g. stoning murderers, people who practised all sorts of magic, homosexuals, etc.). Also, Jesus said, “Whoever then annuls of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). In other words, we keep the Ten Commandments because Jesus tells us to and commands that we not annul the commandments. Additionally, Paul writes that God’s moral Law is written on the hearts of all mankind (Romans 2:15). This is what it means to be created in God’s image—His moral Law is written on our hearts. This being the case, we are always bound to conform to God’s moral Law, not our own. This also explains why we will find cultures that practise similar Christian morals such as being against murder and thievery, since God’s moral Law is written on the hearts of all mankind because every human being is created in God’s image.
Let’s jump back to Galatians 3:13-14, which tells us how Christ fulfilled the Law and therefore why we no longer keep it: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” [crucifixion on a cross]—in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles [non-Jewish peoples], so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” We are incapable of fulfilling the Law; only God is capable of fulfilling it, and it would only be effective if He were simultaneously human. That’s why He came down as the incarnate Christ—born as man under the Law (Galatians 4:4), yet fully God through the Holy Spirit. So He was nailed to the cross, bearing our sins, and having fulfilled the Law for us on earth, we are released from it as well as the bondage of original sin. This is why we say we are saved. It is indeed salvation.
*Disclaimer: this article has been republished with the full permission of Sheep of Christ, which is owned by the author.*